Let It Come Down, Paul Bowles
Random House, 1952
Today was a million days rolled into one. Woke up. Ate Cheerios (the daunting task of trying to systematically lower my cholesterol). Took a quick shower and got dressed in a variation of the work clothes that were by now, officially mixed and matched out. Walked the dog a bit too quickly. Drove to work in the same old traffic jam that never quite dissipates. Got pissed at a few assholes who cut me off along the way. Not sure how, but managed to survive the work day relatively unscathed. Back at home, after keeping the rush hour road rage more or less at bay, I was flung straight into another evening time warp. No choice but to go to bed so that I could get enough sleep in order to be reasonably refreshed enough to have the strength to do it all over again.
If you got up early enough, he reflected, you could get on board the day and ride it easily, otherwise it got ahead of you and you had to push it along in front of you as went. But however you did it, you and the day came out together into the dark, over and over again. He began to do few setting-up exercises there in front of the open window. For years he had gone along not being noticed, not noticing himself, accompanying the days mechanically, exaggerating the exertion and boredom of the day to give him sleep for the night, and using the sleep to provide energy to go through the following day.
Is that all there is? Wouldn’t it be nice to pack everything up—or better yet, leave it all behind—and start over somewhere (anywhere) else? Problems solved. Yeah, yeah, I know. No matter where you run, you’ll never be able to hide from yourself. Different location, same problems. But to hell with that horse shit. A change of scenery would do a world of good. (Eyebrows rise.) Better weather. Better this. Better that. Better, better, better.
Daisy sat studying Dyar’s face as she sipped her coffee, noting with a certain slight resentment that, far from being embarrassed, on the contrary he showed signs of feeling more at ease with her than earlier in the evening. “But what do I expect?” she thought, whereupon she had to admit to herself that she would have liked him to be a little more impressed by what had passed between them. He had come through untouched; she had the uneasy impression that even his passion had been objectless, automatic.
“What goes on in your head?” he said when the servants had all gone out of and the room had fallen back into its quiet.
Even that annoyed her. She considered the question insolent. It assumed an intimacy which ought to have existed between them, but which for some reason did not. “But why not?” she wondered, looking closely at his satisfied, serious expression. The answer came up ready-made and absurd from her subconscious; it sounded like doggerel. “It didn’t exist because he doesn’t exist.” This was ridiculous, certainly, but it struck a chord somewhere in the vicinity of the truth. “Unreal. What does it mean for a person to be unreal? And why should I feel he is unreal?” Then she laughed and said: “My God! Of course! You want to feel you’re alive!”
Nowhere Man, meet Nothing Man. Let the nihilism reign down with an unbearable crescendo of suspense and consequence to follow. In this clash of cultures, let it come down.